Robert Gerringer 1975 Letter to Charles Hunting
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2
Probably no college instructor at Ambassador College has ever had to face such a situation, because it is doubtful whether any truly inquisitive, questioning, open-minded individuals still actively possess these traits by their third year of college. Almost everything about Ambassador College teaches one to accept what he is taught without question. Unquestioning acceptance and unfailing obedience prove ones loyalty to "God's Church." Ambassador College is not a 'liberal arts college"; it isn't an "educational institution." At most Ambassador College is a theological seminary where a person can go to learn what the Worldwide Church of God denomination believes and how to instruct others in those beliefs. I vividly remember attending, in my freshman year, Pasadena Bible Studies conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He was always getting very upset at people who sent up questions during the Bible Study. If any question only slightly expressed disagreement with him, what he had said, a belief of the Worldwide Church of God, etc. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong became very irate. He would scold the questioner for "his attitude," his lack of respect, disloyalty, and so on. Mr. Hunting, I'm not exaggerating. He made it quite clear he does not want to be questioned. He was very defensive and constantly felt the questions to be a challenge to his authority. He made it clear to all of us that he was responsible to no one but God (and the more people who believed that, the more powerful he became). At first it bothered me when he responded so defensively and antagonistically to the honest, open questions sent up by people in the audience. However, as the months went by and I attended many Friday night sessions conducted by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, I began to look at it the way he did. When he chewed someone out because they asked a certain question, I agreed with his appraisal of their "wrong attitude." Slowly my outlook was being warped until I concurred with his belief that no one had the right to seriously challenge or question him or the Worldwide Church of God.
The above is only one example of the Worldwide Church of God intolerance of beliefs contrary to theirs, or even of those who merely have questions about the church's doctrines. Being a student at Ambassador College, and to a-lesser extent a lay member in the Worldwide Church of God, is to experience a type of brainwashing. The indoctrination results in a form of mental castration; theologically the individual will not or cannot think for himself. He will blindly accept, believe, and obey whatever Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says. He will loyally support and uphold the Worldwide Church of God's castigation of those who question, doubt, or criticize.
Primarily theologically, and oftentimes in many other facets of life, the Worldwide Church of God has turned thinking, reflective, inquisitive, analytical, seeking, free people into a dependent, unconfident, gullible, easily led and manipulated group. Obviously there are a wide range of degrees of how individuals were before entering the Worldwide Church of God and how they are ending up, but I feel the above trend represents the vast majority of cases. II Cor. 10:5 does not say, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God."
Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has done what he has accused so many other churches of doing --taking one small Biblical point, and making it the central point of a religion. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims there's only one reason we've been called today --to get the gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness. This extremely limited and incomplete interpretation of the real meaning, intent, and fullness of the gospel is crippling when it comes to understanding the New Testament and what real Christianity is all about. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has often said, "Jesus Christ is not the gospel." Well, He most certainly IS! Christ IS the good news. Paul in I Cor. 15:1-4 sums up the gospel as: "Christ died for our sins ... He was buried He rose again the third day." Rom. 1:16 says the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation."
I've read Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's booklet, "What is the True Gospel." He only quotes five or six of the New Testament scriptures which mention "gospel." Three or four of the quotes serve as his "proof-texts" -- and he proceeds to draw dogmatic conclusions, ignoring both the immediate context and the rest of the New Testament. If he'd examine the other 95 places where "gospel" is mentioned the meaning would be quite clear, although very different. This booklet is typical of the research and "open-mindedness" which has gone into most Worldwide Church of God publications and conclusions. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's concept of the gospel is similar to the blind man who got hold of the elephant's tail and quickly concluded that an elephant resembled a piece of rope.
So, instead of spreading the real gospel, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is delivering his gospel message to political figures and dignitaries around the world. It is also interesting to examine the scriptural support for these activities. In the October, 1956, Plain Truth, page 22, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said, "The popular churches of Christendom nearly all take active, vigorous part in the world's affairs and its politics ... They are part and parcel of THIS WORLD, and they serve only THE GOD OF THIS WORLD, Satan the Devil. They are deceived.' They do not even know they are doing wrong -- they ARE DECEIVED.'"
Although God has personally given Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong no commission, he nevertheless feels that virtually every commission God has ever given is his. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong either thinks he is, or is to do the job given to: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the "watchman," the "inkhorn," the one who "cries aloud and spares not," Elijah to come, a type of John the Baptist, either Joshua or Zerubbabel, one of the two witnesses, an apostle, a "messenger" one who "prepares the way," Hosea, Malachi, Moses (anyone who disdains Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's authority or position is immediately compared to Korah), Daniel, Joel, Amos, etc., etc., etc. And, of course, he primarily feels he is to fulfill Matt. 24:14 -- see Rev. 14:6 for the most likely individual to take care of that job.
When I examined Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's "United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy" belief and found it to be not only scripturally and historically unprovable, but untrue, I realized that virtually my entire concept of Bible prophecy was built on sand; not necessarily the what, but certainly the where, when, and to whom.
Mr. Roderick C. Meredith said that Dr. C. Paul Meredith had "always been a student, and he took careful notes on Mr. Armstrong's prophetic sermons. As time went on, he compared these notes to the events that were taking place -- and to what other preachers had said -- and soon came to realize that Mr. (Herbert W.) Armstrong was the only one who actually knew what was going to happen BEFORE it happened.'" ("The Inside Story of The World Tomorrow Broadcast", p. 12) "This is the ONLY Work on earth that really understands ... the specific meaning of present-day world events, and the exact time schedule of prophecy!" (IBID, p. 17)
To see how inspired and Godly this supposed "understanding" has been, I would like to quote from just a few of the writings of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and others in the Worldwide Church of God. I would first like to refer to one of the original issues of the Plain Truth, June, 1934. On page 3 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has drawn a chronological chart of end-time events." In this chart the "tribulation" is diagrammed as ending in 1936. 1936 is also labeled "End of Age." Immediately thereafter are the "heavenly signs" and then the "Day of the Lord."
Now to quote Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong in the May/June, 1941 issue of the Plain Truth: "Since the last issue many things have occurred, every one in accordance with prophecy! ... War events thunder on, rapidly approaching the prophesied climax! ... Hitler now emerges as the "BEAST" of Revelation! Bible prophecy shows the Roman Axis forces will take Egypt, Suez, Palestine, --even Gibraltar. Britain will go down. And, unless we turn as a nation to God our beloved United States will have to go under ... We lack space for more detailed comment on specific prophesied events in this number. Without (a spiritual turnaround) we (USA) lack TOTAL Defense, without which we shall never win. We are at the END of the present order. ARMAGEDDON is now just a short way off."
Now to quote Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, September/October, 1941 issue of the Plain Truth, page 7: "What does Hitler's invasion of Russia mean? What does BIBLE PROPHECY say about it? As usual, there are many ideas. So FEW, it seems, have a right understanding of the Bible and its prophecies (You can say that again!) Plain Truth readers know world events, before they occur. ... Hitler MUST BE THE VICTOR in his present Russian invasion! A settlement will be reached, giving Hitler the supplies and resources he must have and undoubtedly part of Western Siberia. The terms will give Hitler assurance that the Red army is unable to attack him, as Hitler turns his wrecking machine to the British Isles, the United States, and Palestine. Hitler will emerge from this Russian campaign stronger than ever, free to turn the entire might of his forces against Britain -- and AMERICA!"
Plain Truth, May, 1950, page 5, Herbert W. Armstrong: "Most certainly it is easily possible the thing (US of Europe) will be fully developed and ready to strike in seven years! Yes, time is running out on us ... One third of our people will die from starvation ... and in the next FEW YEARS!"
Plain Truth, Aug., 1952, page 10, Herbert W. Armstrong: "Thus it has been proved conclusively and beyond doubt, that Hitler did not die -- his body was not there -- HE HAD ESCAPED! ... The next Pope will be a professed miracle worker, as supposed proof that God is using him to order and pacify the world!"
Plain Truth, April, 1956, pages 3, 23, 24, Herman L.. Hoeh: "PLAGUES are coming --and, according to this prophetic warning, in about two years from now. ... For seven long and frightful years we are going to suffer as never before --until we are left "few in number!" We have about reached our population peak, despite the guesses of our political and industrial planners. In another ten years for fear of Communist terrorism it won't be safe to live in Asia or in Africa.'... This most important Work will in all probability be completed in 1972: The coming Fascist-religious revival of Europe will conquer us within a prophetically indicated 17 years!"
"1975 in Prophecy!"5 1956, pages 10, 12, 20, Herbert W. Armstrong: "Indications of prophecy are that this drought ... will strike sooner than 1975 -- probably between 1965 and 1972! At the outset of article I stated that the KEYS that had kept prophetic doors locked and closed from human understanding have now been found -- or, more properly, been given to us by God ..."
"Yes, millions of lukewarm inactive professing Christians will suffer MARTYRDOM -- and that before the anticipated push-button leisure-year of 1975 dawns upon us!"
Plain Truth, August, 1957, page 5, Roderick C. Meredith: "We will soon find that hoof-and-mouth disease will spread COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL! These things are not far off. They are here and NOW! DISEASE EPIDEMICS are prophesied to begin soon! America, WAKE UP! After 1965, we are destined to run into increased trouble with the Gentile nations. America and Britain will begin to suffer from trade embargoes....We will begin to experience the pangs of starvation and of scarcity of goods!"
"A True History of the True Church", 1959, page 27, Hoeh: "God has given His Church -- THIS CHURCH -- just two nineteen year cycles ... The first cycle passed. Then God suddenly opened the door for the second cycle in January, 1953."
Plain Truth, December, 1962, page 42, Herman L. Hoeh: "Russia and China Will NOT Split . -. Russia and China are to remain allies!"
Plain Truth, Jan., 1963, page 21, Herbert W. Armstrong: "Somewhere along about seven to ten years from now the REVOLUTION IN THE WEATHER will become a national and international calamity. Drought, epidemics of disease, will reap a mounting harvest of death across North America -- and in Britain. Economic depression will strike ...And the time will be right for the new United Europe to strike!"
Plain Truth, June, 1963, page 46, Roderick C. Meredith: "This coming, revived Holy Roman Empire which is prophesied to arise in Europe and CONQUER America and Britain within the next ten to twelve years ..."
Plain Truth, Mar. 1964, page 48, Herman L. Hoeh: "We face a national catastrophe before 1975!"
Plain Truth, Nov. 1964, page 32, Eugene Walter: "In the next few years it is entirely possible that some of the satellite countries will break away from Russia altogether. East Germany could well become reunited with West Germany. Rumania and Hungary are also good candidates to join the West."
Plain Truth, May 1965, Page 21, Raymond F. McNair: "The greatest proof that the 'times of the Gentiles' have not yet ended is the simple fact that the Gentile Arabs are still in possession of the old city of Jerusalem. They will remain in control of this city until the second coming of Christ."
Plain Truth, Mar. 1966, page 22, Charles Dorothy: "Hitler escaped, probably to Argentina!"
Plain Truth, Feb. 1967, page 47, Herbert W. Armstrong: "The 'Day of the Eternal' ... is going to strike between 5 and 10 years from now!"
"The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy," 1967, pages XI-XII, Herbert W. Armstrong: "The events prophesied to strike the American and British peoples in the next four to seven years are SURE! That is why the events of the next four to seven years may prove this to be the most significant book of this century. These colossal world events, shrinking the first two world wars into insignificance, WILL COME, on schedule."
Plain Truth, Feb., 1970, page 27, Raymond F. McNair: "Will Britain ever be admitted to the Common Market? Probably not!"
I have given you about twenty quotes out of about one hundred which I have collected -- predictions made by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and others which did not materialize. The Worldwide Church of God always tries to speak with dogmatic assurity [sic]; however in the case of prophecy, their absolute-ism has been quite reckless.
In the Feb., 1972, Tomorrow's World6, pages 30-31, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong tries to claim they never really made specific predictions: "It has never been our intention to SET DATES! Yet, in our human zeal and enthusiasm we have a few times come close to it or appeared to.. Yet, in our zeal, we have used 'possibles' and 'probablys' and even appeared to set dates we really didn't intend to set."
Mr. Hunting, I sincerely feel that is an unfair "cop-out." After all, Dr. C. Paul. Meredith said Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong "knew what was going to happen BEFORE it happened!" Mr. R. C. Meredith claimed "Truth after truth, prophecy after prophecy has come to be clearly REVEALED by Almighty God to His servants in this Work." ("The Inside Story of the World Tomorrow Broadcast", p.17). He also declared that the Worldwide Church of God understood "the exact time schedule of prophecy!" Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed to have been given by God and had kept prophetic doors locked and closed from human understanding and he claimed on page one of "1975 in Prophecy" that these prophecies were now "crystal clear." Not only has the Worldwide Church of God set specific dates and placed clear time limits on its prophecies, but time and again it has been in error -- prognosticating that a certain thing will not occur and it does, or that something else will occur which doesn't. Certainly a few of the forecasts have been correct, but when so many are made a few are bound to come to pass.
In that Feb.,1972 Tomorrow's World editorial Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims that this entire subject is "of MOST MINOR consequence." To get another view on this subject I would like to quote God in Deut. 18:20-22: "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: you shall not be afraid of him."
The Worldwide Church of God specializes in "Self-Fulfilled Prophecy." The News Bureau or writers choose those sections of newspapers, news releases, news magazines, etc. which they believe fulfill prophecy, and then ignore much of what might modify or contradict those selections. Eventually sufficient clippings have been amassed to prove that severe drought, crop failure, upset weather conditions, etc. are going to sweep the country next year. But when hoof-and-mouth disease fails to envelop the intended target or when Russia and Red China do indeed split, does the Worldwide Church of God admit error and print retractions? No. They continue to interpret world news. They do not analyze the news, but rather force it to fit into their pre-conceived prophetic super-structure. The Worldwide Church of God often makes conditions seem worse than they really are in an attempt to "help" God fulfill prophecy sooner and according to their interpretation of it.
Soon after Rohan's attempted Mosque burning Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong began saying that neither he nor anyone else in the Worldwide Church of God had ever proclaimed that a literal temple had to be built in Jerusalem. When I heard him say it, I believed it -- unquestioningly. After all, it would be virtually a sin to question Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
Could Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's denials represent a possible credibility problem? situation ethics? expedience? deception? The following quotes helped me decide:
Plain Truth, Oct., 1958, page 4, column 31 paragraph 4, Herman L. Hoeh: "A temple or sanctuary is yet to be built by the Jews in Jerusalem.' it shall happen in less than 14 years from now."
Plain Truth, June, 1967, page 2, column 2, paragraph 6, Herbert W. Armstrong: "There will very soon be a Temple in Jerusalem" with daily sacrifices once again being offered ... They will invade Jerusalem, and take charge of the Temple." Page 4, column 2, paragraph 3, Herbert W. Armstrong: "So there will have to be a temple there." Page 5, column 1, paragraph 4, Herbert W. Armstrong: "So there will be a temple built on the spot of the old temple in Jerusalem." Page 5, column 2, paragraph 4, Herbert W. Armstrong: "Then Revelation 11 shows there will be a temple in Jerusalem."
Plain Truth, Mar., 1968, page 8, column 2, paragraph 3, Roderick C. Meredith: ".... a religious center and Temple will be built there (Jerusalem) within the very next few years. Page 41, column 1, paragraph 2, Roderick C. Meredith: "The building of a literal Temple" and "a great religious leader making his Headquarters right in that Temple in Jerusalem" are to be signs that "the END OF this age" is near.
Plain Truth, Aug., 1968, page 41, column 2, paragraph 4, Garner Ted Armstrong: "Bible prophecy specifically states that there WILL BE A TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM." Column 3, paragraph 3, Garner Ted Armstrong: "This reveals clearly. that the TEMPLE of which these prophecies speak must be a Temple IN JERUSALEM -- on the same site as the one in which Christ spoke; the same site on which Solomon's Temple had stood. This cannot be some other "temple" in some other area -- it must be a temple IN JERUSALEM -- or the prophecies of your Bible fail! He will SIT IN A TEMPLE OF GOD" -- IN THE TEMPLE SITE -- IN JERUSALEM.' "
Why did no one in the Worldwide Church of God speak out against Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's denial of the above statements?
The Worldwide Church of God's apocalyptic predictions, of course, are not unique in the field of religion. The Montanists set a date for the return of Christ in the second half of the second century. The Anabaptists predicted the return of Christ in 1533. Prevalent among European Jews was the belief that the Messiah would come in the year 1648. The Millerites expected the second coming of Christ in 1843. The Worldwide Church of God expected to flee in 1972, with the Second Coming in 1975 (Sept. 6th, to be exact). And the same thing happened when all these dates failed: the delay of the second advent failed to put an end to any of these movements; quite to the contrary it gave them new life and vitality. The failure was always followed by greater efforts to expand their work.
Perhaps the most poignant illustration of this is the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses have set dates of 1878,1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975. I think you would find it interesting and informative to read the article: "Prophetic Failure and Chiliastic Identity: The case of Jehovah's Witnesses." in the American Journal of Sociology, 1970, pages 926-948. I will not take the time to quote from it here, but the parallels between the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God are unmistakable. There is an incredible similarity between their reaction to repeated prophetic failures and the Worldwide Church of God's.
In Jan., 1972 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed the gospel had gone to all the world, whereas it had not before that time; many in the Worldwide Church of God felt God had "given the world more time to repent"; Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims God has "delayed the return of Christ: so Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong can finish witnessing, so he can finish the job God gave him"; Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed that something of divine significance did happen on Jan. 7, 1972 -- the greatest door ever opened to the Work -- Reader's Digest ads -- thus justifying the long-awaited Jan 7th date, ending the second 19-year time cycle (Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has conveniently failed to ever refer back to the Reader's Digest ads "door" because they failed utterly); Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong pointed out the approval of the auditorium contract as another significant event in Jan., 1972.
These five examples of the Worldwide Church of God's reaction to the failure of its 1972 prediction are very similar to the reactions of the Jehovah's Witnesses over the years. There are other similarities I won't take time to cite. Suffice it to say that, as the above article described the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Worldwide Church of God also represents a "case of the process of 'self-fulfilling prophecy'." That is, these two groups fulfill their own prophecies in two methods:
1) By interpreting news events to fulfill prophecy, whether the news is doing that or not, and
2) By reinterpreting prophecies in terms of their own particular organizational circumstances and activities.
With reference to the first method, I will take one quote from that article about the Jehovah's Witnesses, page 935: "The most frequently used device has been the selective interpretation of emerging historical events as confirming signs of the approaching end. The group's negative and pessimistic world view sensitized it to perceive virtually every major and minor social disturbance and natural catastrophe as an indicator of the impending collapse of the earthly system." This accurately describes the Worldwide Church of God's News Bureau and most of its writings on current world events.
With reference to the second method, I will again quote from the same paragraph on page 935: "A related device has been the effort to interpret the experience and achievements of the movement itself as confirming signs of the approaching climax and as validation of the sect's conception of itself as an agency of prophetic fulfillment."
To illustrate the second method, I will quote from Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's co-worker letter of April 27, 1975, page 3: "Do you realize WHY God has held world events up, delaying the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:48??), of the GREAT TRIBULATION, and the DAY OF THE LORD? God is now holding back the world events heading toward the final climax of the GREAT TRIBULATION and the DAY OF THE LORD until we get the message of the KINGDOM OF GOD to the leaders and rulers of East Asia."
So the actions and strategies of the Worldwide Church of God are not new. One of the most meaningful and thought-provoking things I have ever read I completed this past May. The author is Eric Hoffer. The book was first Published in 1951. It is called The True Believer; its subtitle is "Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements." He begins the "Preface" by saying: "This book deals with some peculiarities common to all mass movements, be they religious movements, social revolutions or nationalist movements."
I strongly urge you to read it. No member, past or present, of the Worldwide Church of God should be without it; on nearly every page I found one or more statements which were applicable to Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God. His perception and incisiveness were so uncanny, I found it hard to believe that The True Believer was written clear back in 1951 and that Mr. Hoffer had no knowledge of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God at the time.
Because there are a few lengthy quotations I want you to read, I decided to simply send you a copy of The True Believer. I will refer to the pages on which they are found, and they will be marked for your easy reference.
Inside the front cover of the book I have listed the pages on which are found the selections which I have marked for you. Of course, I hope you'll read the entire book, but please at least read those I've marked.
Many of the selections I have marked, but especially pages 21-24 describe the type of people, in general, who become ardent members of mass movements. Pages 55-61 discuss how a mass movement wins and holds its followers; in short, this is done through its ability "to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice" (pg. 57).
Pages 75-79 are superb; virtually every sentence is uncanny in its incisive perception into the Worldwide Church of God's approach to doctrine, dogmatism, absolute-ism, hereby, reason, close-mindedness, fanaticism, etc., etc. "Mass movements ... interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine ..." (pg. 75). True believers ''refuse to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about their movement ... It is the true believer's ability to 'shut his eyes and stop his ears' to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy" Mass movements are "stripping each human entity of its distinctness and autonomy and turning it into an anonymous particle with no will and no judgment of its own. The result is not only a compact and fearless following but also a homogeneous plastic mass that can be kneaded at will" (pg. 79).
Pages 105-110 discuss the qualifications of the leader of a mass movement, and Eric Hoffer's description bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. On these pages he also discusses the subject of obedience. Mass movements are "inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience ... All mass movements rank obedience with the highest virtues and put it on a level with faith ... 'Not to reason why' is considered the mark of a strong and generous spirit" (Pg. 108). On that same page he quotes Pope Leo XIII as saying that there must be "complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself."
Regarding effective leadership in a mass movement: "There can be no mass movement without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts" (Pg. 107).
On page 118 he discusses what a mass movement does to its followers: "people raised in the atmosphere of a mass movement are fashioned into incomplete and dependent human beings."
On page 115 "the indispensable devil of every mass movement" is discussed. "It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter... If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing";
You can read these and many other quotes I have marked in the book itself, so I will site only one more. I consider this final quote to be the most profound and important statement made in The True Believer. It sums up concisely why I feel that church organizations in general, and the Worldwide Church of God in particular, by their very existence and perpetuation, are missing the entire essence and one of the great meanings of Christianity:
"Collective unity is NOT the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty (love) of the true. believer is to the whole -- the church, party, nation -- and NOT to his fellow true believer. True loyalty (love) between individuals is possible ONLY in a loose and relatively free society. " (Pg. 115, emphasis mine)
And "a loose and relatively free society" the Worldwide Church of God is not!
At the beginning of this letter I affirmed that the actions taken by Connie and I were not the result of individual personalities, dastardly rumors, real or imagined sins, slanderous tales, etc. Yet, we have not been deaf and blind, and when this subject, loosely categorized as "fruits" is examined, it only lends credence to our decision to leave the Worldwide Church of God.
Mr. Hunting, in your letter to us you said: "What about the fruits of those who have left the Church? Examine carefully the lives of those who have already left." We know scores of people personally who've left the Worldwide Church of God, and I've run into none of the "very tragic stories" you alluded to. Those we know are Christians exuding the qualities of Gal. 5:22-23. They are not in "the bonds of Satan", and have not suddenly displayed the traits described in Gal. 5:19-21. They are excited and enthused with the freedom and liberty Paul describes in Gal. 5:1. There has been nothing alarming in "the fruits" of the scores of people we know well who have left the Worldwide Church of God. And even more exciting is the fact that we have met scores of people who've never been in the Worldwide Church of God, and in most cases have never even heard of it, who are Spirit-begotten Christians and members of the Body of Christ!
You asked me to "examine carefully the lives of those who have already left." Therefore, I am sure you also want me to examine carefully the lives of those who have stayed in the Worldwide Church of God. This I have done in the case of some of its leaders, and it was a very startling and disappointing exercise.
You asked us: "What about the fruits of those who have left the Church? Mr. Hunting, what about the fruits of the two top men in the Worldwide Church of God? Do they meet the high standards set by God in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1? I don't think so. (These qualifications are required, not optional; they are not to be treated lightly or applied only when expedient!) Since you are acquainted with this issue of ministerial qualifications and are no doubt aware of the unacceptable "fruits" which I question, I will not go into specific events. But I think it is fair to say that all the facts about the actions of the top two men, plus certain behavior by a number of other individuals in the upper echelon of "the Work," would severely shock and stun the essentially naïve laity. Unfortunately the Worldwide Church of God must live under a weighty, self-imposed "sword of Damocles."
And yet Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong claims, without basis, biblical or otherwise, to occupy the office of an apostle and to be the physical head of God's only true Christians on the earth today. II Cor. 11:13 warns of false apostles, and Rev. 2:2 commends those who "tried them which say they are apostles, and are not ..." I am sure that some who have left the Worldwide Church of God have had problems, have not always produced "good fruit," and since you say there are "some very tragic stories," then I'm sure there are. But there have been some extremely tragic stories -- true ones -- involving far too many of those who are leading and directing various aspects of the Worldwide Church of God. Good or bad fruits do not necessarily either validate or discredit the beliefs held by the bearer yet when those producing "bad fruits" attempt to govern others with their interpretation of God's Word, then their self-proclaimed authority should not be tolerated.
So, to conclude my comments on "fruits," I don't feel that everyone who left the Worldwide Church of God is a blameless "good guy"; nor do I believe that there are only "bad guys" in the Worldwide Church of God. I do feel, however, that there have been very few "tragic stories" among those who left the Worldwide Church of God, and I think a number of the leaders of the Worldwide Church of God, including the two at the top, have disqualified themselves by their "fruits."
In this letter I have not really addressed most of the major doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God, nor because of the length of this letter will I. However, Connie and I have come to disagree with much of what the Worldwide Church of God teaches. One key to our new beliefs regarding the Sabbath, Holy Days, grace, new and old covenant, tithing, etc. was acquiring an understanding of the old covenant. When I graduated from Ambassador College, I had no real understanding of the old covenant, and why we kept and followed certain things, and ignored others. Much of the Bible became crystal clear when we realized and accepted that the covenant was made with Ancient Israel, and no one else. Also, we saw that God plainly states that the covenant was to be kept in its entirety, completely, and no place in either the New or Old Testaments are Christians told to keep whatever they feel like keeping. Yet, Mr. Hunting, this is what the Worldwide Church of God does!
Please read the covenant to which Israel agreed in Exodus 20-23. How much of that does the Worldwide Church of God obey? I don't mean partially, but exactly as God stated it. The Worldwide Church of God would say that certain portions of the covenant aren't applicable today, or can't be followed because of changed circumstances. However, there is no biblical authority for obeying only part of that covenant. Take Lev. 23 -- where in the NT does it say the Holy Days can be kept apart from the sacrifices which were an integral, if not focal, part of each holy day observance. Why does the Worldwide Church of God, completely arbitrarily, not enforce the blowing of trumpets portion of the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24) , but does enforce the removal of leavening and eating of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but does not enforce God's command to build of branches booths which are to be lived in (Lev. 23:40-42) during the Feast of Tabernacles, does enforce fasting (Lev 23:27, 29, 32) on the Day of Atonement, does not enforce the waving of a sheaf of first fruits during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:10-11), etc., etc.?
There is no biblical authority for such haphazard, fragmented, and selective obedience to God. The entire Day of Atonement observance (as commanded by God in the OT and modified nowhere in the NT) revolved around the goat ceremony, and the Worldwide Church of God is kidding (pardon the pun) itself if it thinks it can observe the Day of Atonement, almost totally disregarding God's instructions for said observance, and then claim to be uncompromising in its obedience to God.
But the problems mentioned above are unavoidable when Christians today try to put themselves in a system God never intended for them. If we offend God's laws regarding the Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, etc., "in one point," we are "guilty of all," and that is exactly what the Worldwide Church of God is doing as long as it professes to obey portions of God's Word which were never intended to be followed today.
Anyway, we have come to research many of the Worldwide Church of God's doctrines, and a close examination shows most of them to be in part, if not completely incorrect. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong always claimed that he "let the Bible interpret itself." However, the truth of the matter is that his beliefs and teachings embody a plethora of "private interpretation." I could write hundreds of pages and not do justice to the doctrinal questions which have arisen in my mind in the last year and a half, but that is not my purpose in this letter.
Many people have told me they see problems throughout "the Work" but they continue to be a part of and support it because it's "getting the gospel message to the world." Mr. Hunting, I hope you will look at what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong writes and says about "the gospel," and then contrast that to what the New Testament says. Look at the approximately 100 places in the NT where the word "gospel" is found; read the context. Please read Acts 17:3; I Cor. 1:23; 2:2; II Cor. 4:5; Gal. 1:16 -- you will see Paul emphasized Christ, and didn't merely allude to Him in a way which would prevent embarrassment. When Paul preached Christ, the listeners knew Christ had been preached to them, whereas Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong prides himself in being able to preach the "gospel" in a way that no one realizes it has been preached. In Rom. 1:16 Paul says,' "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.' " This year, in the Bulletin, page 293, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong says, "One thing has been a serious handicap, and caused me and my touring team NO LITTLE EMBARRASSMENT. We have had to say that we REPRESENT either Ambassador College, or the Worldwide Church of God."
Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has frequently quoted Gal. 1:6-9, wherein Paul warns against those who "pervert the gospel OF CHRIST" and preach "another gospel." Well, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is a victim of his own quotation -- he indeed perverts the gospel of Christ and preaches another gospel -- the gospel of Herbert Armstrong. The Worldwide Church of God is not preaching the gospel of Christ to the world. I think Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong himself sums it up best on page 15 of the October, 1975, Good News: "What we proclaim ... in reality is outside the field of religion." (I also address this subject on pages 11-12 of this letter.)
After beginning to examine many of the Worldwide Church of God's teachings in detail, I began to realize they had their own complex Talmud -- do's and don'ts, many of which were not mentioned in the Bible one way or the other. When Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong left the Church of God, 7th Day, he did not retain their teachings against dancing, card-playing, movie-going, etc. Yet, over the years the Worldwide Church of God has experienced similarly biblically unfounded rules and regulations.
Since starting his Church Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has been making ex-cathedra pronouncements on everything from music to voting, dating to farming, doctors to hair lengths, investments to pierced ears, holding public offices to skirt lengths, adoption to beards, smoking to jewelry, wigs to pantsuits, medicine to customs of the land, dancing to make-up, types of employment to birthdays, business arrangements to stained-glass windows, sideburns to participation in dramatic productions, sex to nursery rhymes, bikinis to space travel, etc., etc., etc. I do not necessarily take issue with the Worldwide Church of God's teachings on all of the above subjects, but I do take issue with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's belief that he has the authority to enforce his personal, private opinions on thousands of others. Although God is silent on many of the topics mentioned in this paragraph, that does not seem to stop the Worldwide Church of God from speaking for God when the subject arises. Such flagrant examples of "private interpretation" are wrong!
Mr. Hunting, thanks for taking the time to write us last March, and especially thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my letter. It has taken me over six months to research and write this letter, and it hasn't been easy. I certainly have not intended it to be offensive, but rather to be honest, sincere, and "straight from the shoulder" -- qualities I have long admired in you.
I am more than happy to have spent hundreds of hours of time on this letter, because these are all things I've wanted to tell you. The purpose of this letter was to show you some of the major steps Connie and I went through leading to our decision to resign from my job at Ambassador College and leave the Worldwide Church of God. If nothing else, this letter should show you that our actions, though you may not agree with them, were undertaken only after much thought, prayer, and study. We have not taken this matter lightly or casually, but rather we have tried to seriously, logically, and systematically consider all the factors.
Connie and I are very happy, blessed, and excited about the future. We get infinite enjoyment out of Teddy, and our second child is due in December. We certainly love you and everyone in the Worldwide Church of God, including the man most accountable, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. We do not question sincerity -- only God can do that. We have no hate or bitterness toward anyone, although I would not be completely candid if I claimed there wasn't a great deal of disappointment we have experienced in the last year and a half. But the blessings we have received and are receiving far overshadow any negative experiences. By the way, Connie and I have many fond and heartwarming memories of Bricket Wood and the tremendous people we knew there. If we can ever travel to Europe again, we'd love to visit the campus and all of you. (Do you still play basketball?)
Connie and I would really like to see you next time you're in Pasadena. In fact, we bought our home over one and a half years ago and you've never seen it. We'd love to have you up for dinner, so just give us a call next time you're in town. Also, if you choose to answer this letter, I'll strive to answer it much more quickly and with a great deal more brevity.
Please give our regards to Chris, Denise, and Charles Freeman.
All our love,
Bob & Connie
PS A few of our other friends also wonder why we have left the Worldwide Church of God, so rather than writing other letters of this scope, I'll just send them a copy of this one.
NOTICE: In April 2009 Worldwide Church of God changed their name in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.)Also read: Jack Kessler 1981 Letter to WCG Board of Directors (Reveals the evil of the continuing, persistent financial abuses and shocking moral depravity which was taking place in the WCG; plus revealing info on HWA's lifestyle.)
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Herbert W. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986 at the age of 93. There was no coroner's inquest.
2 Mind control techniques work best of those who become like children.
4 Radio Church of God was renamed Worldwide Church of God in 1968.
6 The World Tomorrow magazine was introduced in March, 1969 and was taken out of circulation after 30 issues.
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2
Herbert W. Armstrong's Religious Roots (By Robert Gerringer; shows that HWA did not receive his teachings from God by revelation)